Mrs. Esther Muchemi is an inspiring woman whose business journey embodies a successful entrepreneurship movie script. Hers is a story that started from a humble beginning, suffering, and immense challenges that almost halted her progress. From a small telecommunication business nearly two decades ago, Samchi has grown to a group of companies with diversified interests in Real Estate, Hospitality, Agriculture and Microfinance among others.
The StartUp Magazine team met with her at her office at Barclays Plaza in Nairobi to unravel the secret of her success script. She shares on why she has involved her children in the running of the business and why as a business they are poised to grow for generations to come.
Envisioned to be the most robust group of companies in Kenya, Samchi, provides products/services geared towards a holistic prosperity of all by contributing directly to the agenda of economic growth in the country. “Samchi is coined from two names; my son-Sammy and daughter-Ciru,” opens up Mrs Muchemi.
“We are still surprised how we figured that early enough but it has grown to give the kids a sense of ownership to the business.”
As the business bears their names, the children have no other option but to work hard, nurture and protect it. “I can always trust them to do their best to ensure it grows,” she notes.
Samchi, just like many other businesses started small with limited resources. It would have been easy for Mrs Muchemi to own a small shop, take full control of it, expose herself to minimal risks and limit her vision. However, she chose to walk the less trodden path. During the formative years of her business, every coin mattered. She had to sacrifice many things including luxuries to invest the surplus monies generated back into the business.
“At Samchi Group, we balance our technical talent with practical business sense and real dedication to customer satisfaction,” states the Executive.
Samchi’s growth is pegged on some values that defined her successful journey. She says, “Ours has been a journey of values. We value honesty and integrity; something that I have imparted into my children. Doing business in an ethical way makes me a happier person, albeit, it has come at a high cost. But I have never regretted.”
Working with her children
Of interest though was Mrs Muchemi’s desire to see Samchi Group of companies find relevance and serves posterity. Along the way when her children grew and developed interest on the family business, she ensured that they get the best education she could afford, learn best practices and impart the same into the business. “They are now professionals, and that is critical for the survival of our business for many generations to come,” she notes. Having her children own the business and being on board was a sure bet to ensure the business grows and is sustained in generations to come.
The family business has structures just like other formal businesses. Her daughter, Ciru is the General Manager while Sammy is also involved in running the business. They have job descriptions for the positions they hold and are expected to even work harder and take more risk than other employees.
Identifying their potential
In an effort to equip her children, Mrs Muchemi prepares them for the boardroom decision making by delegating duties challenging them to make decisions at a higher level.
“Every kid has unique potential,” she says. As a parent, she had to learn about her children’s different abilities and prepare them accordingly for their respective roles.
“Shiro is very people centered. An attribute she inherited from her dad. Sammy on the other hand is very analytical and strategic. As such, they play key and different but complementing roles within the business.”
Today, Samchi Group of companies employs hundreds of people across the country creating larger impact to the society. “Solve a problem, create employment, pay taxes as well as improve the welfare of the society. Now that is a successful business,” she observes.
The Telecom arm that started as a small mobile outlet business in 2000 selling mobile phones and other mobile hardware. Today, it is one of the leading dealer with Safariccom. The Group also owns Samchi Credit, the prestigious ‘After 40 Hotel that is located within Nairobi’s CBD, and has interests in real estate and plans to venture into manufacturing.
The journey has exposed her to many experiences, including the type of ventures she chose to invest in. She is very particular on the scalability of businesses she undertakes. “A business should be scalable as that is a better way to assess growth,” she says.
What about the downside of working with children?
On the flipside, children call also fall victim of their highly successful parents. Asked whether she understands this predicament, the executive acknowledges the possible pitfalls. Her success can be a double edged sword and crash their potential. The society is also pilling pressure on them to fit into their mother’s shoes.
How then does she mitigate this?
“I have allowed them to make mistakes and learn from them. It is a key step towards growth. Despite their independence to make certain decisions, I step in to intervene in cases where I foresee bigger financial implications,” affirms Mrs Muchemi.
She advises that every decision they make in business is critical. As such, it calls for a sober mind around the clock. However, if a decision is going to have a major implication, she urges them to consult.
“Above all, the ability to make decisions is a learning process. One must train their mind to make informed and calculated decisions.”
Driving force to the escalating growth
Thus far, she credits her growth to having surrounded herself with the right clique of friends. Staying close to her family has also kept her grounded. She advises that whom you interact with will determine the direction you take in life. Hence, being around with like-minded people is critical.
She confesses to never having a plan B. She focuses on the task at hand until she achieves it. If she fails, she will humbly admit she tried, and learn from it.
She is also self-motivated. “I have a clear vision of what I want to achieve for myself and my family, and I always pursue until I achieve.” She is also deeply spiritual. Being close to God has been key for her success. “He always offers me the support I need and keeps me accountable,” she states confidently.
The best thing
Entrepreneurship is one of the best thing to have ever happened to her. She wonders why she took all that time to crack it. Were she to start again, she would have studied entrepreneurship from the very start.
Mrs Muchemi aims to inspire more young people through her work. She has invested in many youths and always encourages them to take charge of their lives and play important roles in the community. Nothing gratifies her the most than impacting societies through her work.